Experts question value of IV drip lounges: Internet Scambusters #839
Bodily infusions of vitamins and enhanced water via IV drips have become something of a craze, driven by celebrity users.
While some of these "treatments" may perform no better than a glass of water and a vitamin pill, others -- or at least the claims made for them -- may be downright dangerous.
Cast as "alternative therapies" they could mislead people not just into losing money but into diverting them away from established medical treatments, as we report in this week's issue.
Let's check out today's...
Scams Hide Behind IV Drip Craze
If you follow celebrity news, you might have read about how some stars have started using intravenous drips -- IV drips -- to hydrate, detoxify, immunize or otherwise improve their well-being.
At around $100 to $250 a pop, these drips, often served up in pseudo-medical establishments called IV bars or drip lounges, are all the rage.
But, while some of them may be harmless, there's no evidence they're any more beneficial than, for instance, drinking a glass of water or taking a vitamin pill.
The nearest the scientific community has come to validating them is to suggest a vitamin infusion might possibly help suppress symptoms of a common cold.
You could say IVs are just another diversion for people with too much money and not enough sense. But the craze has found its way into scam territory with unfounded and sometimes dangerous claims being made about what they can achieve.
The past few years have seen massive growth in bars and clinics -- even a mobile service -- that offer "IV cocktails" and other supposed alternative therapies for many physical and mental health disorders from jetlag to multiple sclerosis and from nausea to cancer.
In a recent blog, Dr. Robert Shmerling of Harvard Health Publishing commented:
"Some people who get the flu (especially the very young and very old) need IV fluids, but they're generally quite sick and belong in a medical facility.
"Most people who have exercised a lot, have a hangover, jet lag, or the flu can drink the fluids they need. While I'm no beauty expert, I doubt that IV fluids will improve the appearance of a person who is well-nourished and well-hydrated to start with."
A case was recently launched to halt a company offering intravenous drips of chemical cocktails from claiming, without proof, that they could cure all manner of diseases including cancer, diabetes, and heart failure.
In some cases, they allegedly claimed their drips were more effective than conventional medical treatments and that they had been scientifically validated (which they hadn't).
Research suggests the drips contained just water, vitamins, minerals and herbs.
This sort of activity recently led the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) to declare: "There are no replacements for standard cancer treatment that work. And alternative therapies do nothing to treat cancer."
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises that before seeking alternative treatments, you should:
- Talk first to your doctor or other health professional.
- Continue taking medicine or other treatment prescribed by qualified health professionals until you've consulted them.
- Not fall for sales pitches for health-related products -- "even when the word 'science' is thrown around by serious-looking people in lab coats."
These warnings don't relate just to IV drips but to other products and forms of so-called alternative treatment for serious diseases.
Says the Commission: "Scammers take advantage of the feelings that can accompany a diagnosis of cancer. They promote unproven - and potentially dangerous - remedies like black salve, essiac tea, or laetrile with claims that the products are both 'natural' and effective.
"But 'natural' doesn't mean either safe or effective when it comes to using these treatments for cancer. In fact, a product that is labeled 'natural,' can be more than ineffective: it can be downright harmful."
Some scammers use fake testimonials for their products and services. And even when they're genuine, testimonials may be based on individuals' subjective opinions rather than scientific data.
Scammers may also try to bamboozle potential victims with lots of technical jargon, website photos of laboratories and people in white lab coats, and supposed money-back guarantees.
Watch out too for words like "miracle," "breakthrough," and "secret ingredient." They're all red flags.
These concerns were echoed in 2018 by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute which warns that unless a medication or product has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there's simply no telling what evidence or data is being used for claims of potential benefits.
"If you are interested in potentially trying new treatments and strategies that haven't yet been approved by the FDA," the Institute says, "consider taking part in a clinical trial. You can search for national trials that you might be eligible for through the National Cancer Institute website."
Final words from Harvard's Dr. Shmerling: "In recent years, more and more options have become available to get medical tests or care without actually having a specific medical reason and without the input of your doctor.
"MRIs, ultrasounds and CT scans, recreational oxygen treatment, and genetic testing are among the growing list of options that were once impossible to get without a doctor's order."
While patient empowerment is generally a good thing, he adds, IV drips on demand may not be the best example: "Some of these services are much more about making money for those providing the service than delivering a product that's good for your health."
Alert of the Week
If you work in higher education, especially administration, watch out for fake notifications of an account dispute with the email marketing company MailChimp.
The company is legitimate, but the account dispute is a fake, dreamed up by scammers who have nothing to do with the firm.
But, using its name, they attempt to lure victims into visiting a phony MailChimp page to give away confidential information.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.